Idaho Technology by John Williamson: New training program helps entrepreneurs find funding

Senior vice president at KeyBank and chairman of the Idaho Technology Council’s Finance CommitteeJuly 23, 2013 

When the Idaho Technology Council polled its members to ask how we could build Idaho’s technology ecosystem, developing business leaders and helping entrepreneurs gain access to capital were the two most-frequently cited responses.

Tech industry leaders made an important step in meeting these critical needs of Idaho entrepreneurs by partnering recently with the Idaho Small Business Development Center to launch the inaugural Becoming an Investor-Ready Entrepreneur program.

The critically acclaimed program originated in the Research Triangle of North Carolina to help entrepreneurs gain a comprehensive understanding of the world of equity funding. The program was developed by investors and experienced entrepreneurs who have been successful in obtaining funding. Because of its rigorous nature, the program has been adopted by many other states interested in quickly helping local entrepreneurs prepare to work successfully with investors.

Organized by the Idaho SBDC and the Idaho Technology Council, this program was brought to Idaho because we recognized that developing a stronger pool of trained investor-ready entrepreneurs plays a critical role in making Idaho a more attractive market. Thanks to this year’s sponsors — KeyBank, the Boise Angel Alliance, the city of Boise, Idaho Power Co., Arkoosh Law Offices and Russell Case Law — more than 20 Idaho entrepreneurs and business owners were admitted into the inaugural Idaho program.

Two veterans from North Carolina’s Small Business Technology Deployment Center, Bill Parrish and Lisa Ruckdeschel, flew to Boise to lead a one-day crash course on the investment process.

They used a “train-the-trainer” approach so the Idaho SBDC and the Idaho Technology Council can create a self-sustaining program. In one day, we reviewed every aspect of the process of obtaining capital, ranging from understanding the market, the idea, the management team and intellectual property. We also brought in top Idaho investors and serial entrepreneurs to share their insights with participants.

The insights gained were provocative, challenging participants to change their paradigms as they prepare to seek equity funding. The program delved into aspects such as examining market opportunities, competently articulating an idea to investors, putting together the best team, and structuring the deal. Our Idaho investors and serial entrepreneurs provided real-life case studies of the principles we discussed. Finally, we posed self-assessment questions that challenged entrepreneurs to determine their level of readiness to obtain funding.

Toward the end of the program, the presenters spoke candidly about Idaho’s unique funding landscape and some of the strengths and weaknesses local entrepreneurs should be aware of. Although presenters agreed there were challenges to overcome in making Idaho’s business environment more attractive for investors, they also acknowledged several key strengths that are sometimes overlooked. Parrish described Idaho entrepreneurs as having “gold mines” all around them, with local experts readily available and a great network to tap into.

The support of Idaho’s business community has been a great asset for Idaho entrepreneurs, which we’re counting on so we can organize this program again in the future. By making a long-term investment in developing high-quality Idaho entrepreneurs, we will create new jobs, businesses and economic prosperity for our state.

john_p_williamson@keybank.com; 364-8773

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